What is Miksang?
Miksang is a Tibetan word that translates as "Good Eye". The Miksang Society offers a number of programs, courses and events that present a form of contemplative photography. This school of contemplative photography brings together the art of photography, the discipline of meditation and the Dharma Art teachings of the meditation master and scholar Chögyam Trungpa.
In general, meditation refers to the state of being awake: the realization of unselfconscious awareness which allows us to connect with the full reality of our being. Meditation also refers to practices of synchronizing mind and body which enable us to cultivate that state of being.
In contemplative photography we work with the synchronization of eye and mind. When eye and mind are in the same place the moment by moment vividness of the visual world manifests and is appreciated fully. This manifestation is spontaneous - a flash of perception - the ordinary magic of the phenomenal world. When one connects with pure perception there is no struggle in making a heartfelt and brilliant photographic image that one can share with others.
These moments of pure perception and appreciation happen all the time but we often ignore and devalue them. However, it is worthwhile to recognize and cultivate these moments because they recollect the inherent openess and goodness of our being.
The Miksang Path of Perception and Photography
Although the experience of clear seeing is available to everyone, people come to contemplative photography with different motivations. Some want to give expression to what they experience through the discipline of meditation. Some have recognized some direct and vivid quality of perception in their own experience and want to explore and express that potential. Others have trained in photography or other arts and are curious about the contemplative approach. The common element is an interest in clear seeing.
The Miksang Society offers a path of perception and photography through a three level course of training. No photographic experience or knowledge is required although you will need a 35mm camera with manual capacity. You do not need a background with meditation and we do not teach meditation as part of the training.
The three levels of training, based on Chögyam Trungpa's teaching on the three levels of perception, follow a traditional contemplative path of transforming confusion into wisdom. Often it seems that our inherent capacity for insight is obscured by preconceptions and habitual patterns. Each level and each class presents teachings and exercises which work through the obstacles to clear seeing by cultivating the purifying power our natural sychronization and wisdom.
Level I: Looking: The Phenomenal World
The first level of training purifies our visual perception by working directly with the elements or forms of the visual field: colour, light and form (texture, lines and patterns). In this level we also attend to the "flash of perception" which discloses a direct presentation of the phenomenal world.
Level II: Seeing: Appreciating the Phenomenal World
In Level II we explore the vast and profound world of ordinary magic rediscovered through the practice of looking and seeing.
Level II A: Dot in Space
In the discipline of looking there is an expansion of awareness concerning the space around the narrow focus of the Level One assignments. We begin to explore the implications and connections. We discover that every perception issues through a medium of space and resonance. In this phase of the training we explore the relationship of perception and space. At the same time we begin to study examples from other contemplative traditions which also have discovered the basic contemplative form of Dot in Space.
Level II B: Fields of Perception
Once we establish the discipline of looking and seeing we are free to explore the open dimensions of the phenomenal world. As this orientation becomes more heartfelt, one becomes more attuned to the intimate qualities of contact, communication and natural expression in clear seeing. This brings relaxation and appreciation: the eye is allowed to fall through the world and celebrate this visual communion. The assignments in this phase of the training explore the diverse possibilites of contemplative vision. Since there are endless fields of perception the specific assignments orient to some of the forms of contemplative vision. For example, explorations have included: The Way of Seasons - with particular emphasis on White Magic - the Way of Winter; Visual Haiku; the Way of Flowers and Grasses; Ordinary World and Personal World; Impressionism; Heaven, Earth and Man in Landscapes; People and Other Sentient Beings; Metropolitan Beauty.
In this phase of training we cultivate the sensibility of the contemplative mind by studying traditions, artists and works that inform the Miksang vision. For example, along with the work of Chögyam Trungpa, we consider Chinese and Japanese contemplative aesthetics, Monet and Impressionism, Basho and Haiku, the classic photographer Edward Weston. Sometimes we offer a seperate course - The Way of Seeing - to contemplate these works in more depth.
Level III: Perceiving: The Play of the Phenomenal World
The dicipline of looking and seeing cultivates a subtle and profound aesthetic sensibility. While this quality of seeing is genuine and fulfilling there remains a subtle allegiance to an underlying form of contemplative appreciation. The practice of direct perception undercuts this subtle ground and reference point. By completly trusting the unconditional power of the gap of perception one drops reference points and connects with the phenomenal world on its own terms. In direct perception there is no space for doubt or preference. Seeing is believing. With this confidence one enters the play of form and chaos in pure perception. Nothing added; nothing missing: each perception is an image of itself.
Again to fortify our practice of direct perception we study the masters and explorers of the phenomenal world: Chögyam Trungpa; the last works of Basho and Weston; examples from modern and post-modern art.